Saturday, April 19, 2014

Movie #250: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a superhero movie starring Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary and Emma Stone. It tells the origins story of our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler.

Wait, again?

Yes, this is a reboot of Sam Raimi's trilogy (we'll get to 'S' eventually), but it's actually better than his movies. And I don't say that lightly with any disrespect; I really liked those films (well, maybe not 3), and I thought Tobey Maguire did fine as Peter Parker. But this one's better.

So, you know the story in basic, but in this version, Peter Parker (Garfield) is more hipster/awkward outcast than nerd. He's not completely dorky, he's just got no game and stands up to bullies, which results in ass-kicking. He is, however, a rather brilliant scientist, which he comes by honestly, because his parents were apparently brilliant scientists who worked for OsCorp.

That's actually the first thing we see - Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) packing everything up in the middle of the night and leaving young Peter with Ben and May (Sheen and Field, respectively) because there was a break-in. We're never told exactly what's going on, here, though the rest of the movie has some clues. Anyway, teenage Peter finds a briefcase belonging to his father, which contains a photo of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans) with Dad, which leads Peter to sneak into OsCorp, where he discovers that his kinda-crush Gwen Stacy (Stone) is research assistant to Connors, who is doing some cross-species genetics weirdness, largely in an attempt to regrow his lost arm.

Peter sneaks off and gets bitten by a spider, OK, we know this part. He goes to visit Connors and helps him solve the Magical Math MacGuffin, which pushes his research forward.

Meanwhile, Peter gets in a fight with Uncle Ben, leaves, Ben follows, Ben gets shot, dies, and Peter learns an important lesson...oh, wait, not so much. What Peter does do is go chasing off after criminals to take revenge, but it isn't until Connors, chasing after the corrupt lackey (Irrfan Khan) to Norman Osborn (Michael Massee - well, we don't know that, but it's kind of implied) to prevent him from trying out drugs on veterans, starts smashing shit up as the Lizard, that Spidey actually deliberately helps people. And in that act, he figures it out - he can help, so he has to. Great power, great responsibility.

So then there's the cat-and-mouse between Lizard and Spidey, culminating in Connors attempting to Lizard-ize New York, Spidey and Gwen's police-chief father (Leary) stopping him, Gwen being badass and making the antidote and not getting kidnapped, and the mid-credits scene with a mysterious man in the shadows.

OK, so, the action sequences, and the superhero stuff in this movie is pretty standard. It's good, but it didn't break ground that Spider-Man didn't break. But the plot and scripting sure does.

First of all, the origin is tight. We're not seeing the full scope of it yet, but it's heavily implied that Richard Parker's research led, in some way, to Peter reacting to the spider-bite the way he did. Peter has a reason to get involved with this beyond his uncle's lesson - but that doesn't invalidate the lesson. Peter only figures out what a big deal this is when he saves lives, and he sees that kindness repaid, not with gifts or anything, but with trust and assistance to save more lives. Meanwhile, Gwen's father is a hardass about Spidey, but that's when Spidey is just beating up thugs and being an arrogant ass about it. When he realizes that Spidey is Peter, and Peter is doing what he's doing out of a sense of altruism, he helps. And Gwen doesn't get kidnapped. Lizard has no interest in luring Spider-Man to a fight; he has his own agenda. He doesn't obsess over Spidey, he just tries to keep him out of the way, and Gwen is, therefore, not damsel'd.

Like I said, lots to like. I think the problem is that the action/webslinging sequences are kind of similar to Raimi's movies, and the more nuanced stuff gets missed. But I'm very much looking forward to the next movie, because I want to see where the story goes.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Argo